By Lisa Hampton
This article will wrap up my series on weight loss and the topic is…food, just in time for the holidays. Now is the time of year when many of us become concerned with gaining weight from all the extra food we use to celebrate. But many of us also know that we do not gain an extra ten or more pounds because we indulge in one Thanksgiving dinner and a slice of pumpkin pie. What determines our weight is more about what we have been consistently eating and doing (or not doing) every other day of the year. This article will explain everyday food basics like calories and the quality and quantity of food we eat. I will also give you some quick tips for cleaning up your diet during the holidays and every day.
Food is energy we measure in the form of calories. Ideally, we need an energy balance in which our metabolism burns about the same number of calories that we take in. To lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in, which is called a caloric deficit. If you are exercising regularly, but eating too many calories, you still may not be in a caloric deficit which will hinder weight loss. Conversely, if you are working out and not eating enough calories, you could be starving your body which burns muscle, slows your metabolism, and makes your body store more fat. When calories are cut too drastically, you might lose weight quickly, but you are more likely to regain that weight due to your body’s stress-reaction to starvation. These factors all lead to “Yo-Yo Dieting,” a cycle of losing weight and gaining it all back again. To lose weight and keep it off, you need to moderately cut your calories and exercise regularly. An average diet is based on 2,000 calories per day. You could cut those calories down to 1500 and see gradual weight loss. A more accurate calculation is to know the base number of calories your body needs to function (called Basal Metabolic Rate- BMR) which may be lower or higher than the average 2,000. We can accurately find your personal BMR using the InBody scan at Life Adapted Fitness.
What makes up your diet?
The three macronutrients that make up your diet are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While there is not a “one size fits all” approach to eating, it is possible to find the right combination of macronutrients that fit your lifestyle and help you reach your weight loss goal. I will be writing future articles with more details about diet trends and macronutrients. For now, I am going to keep things simple by covering some nutrition basics.
Proteins are particularly important in a weight loss diet because they provide the amino acids that build muscle. Muscle burns fat and keeps your metabolism healthier for longer which helps you keep weight off. Proteins also keep you satiated longer which help curb sugar cravings and overeating. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories. Meat, poultry, dairy, and seafood are some examples of foods that are high in protein.
Also known as glucose provides energy for your body along with fat. Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories. Carbohydrates constitute simple sugars, fibrous vegetables, and complex carbs. Simple sugars are found in natural foods like fruit as well as in processed foods like candy, cookies, and baked dessert. Fibrous vegetables are leafy green vegetables that grow above ground (ex: peppers, spinach, and broccoli). Complex carbohydrates are also found in natural foods like root vegetables that grow underground (ex: potatoes, carrots, and onions) and grains (ex: wheat, rice, & corn) as well as processed foods like bread and pasta.
Fats are another misunderstood but essential part of a weight loss diet. Fats provide energy for the body, provide longer satiety, help regulate hormones, cushion vital organs, and help maintain proper cognition and brain development. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins, which means they require fat for absorption. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories. There are two main types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Examples include butter, coconut oil, meats, and cheeses. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Examples include olive, peanut, corn, and canola oils. Unsaturated fats provide the essential fatty acids (EFA’s) omega-6 and omega-3 which you have heard are the “healthy” fats that lower bad cholesterol and provide powerful antioxidants. Omega-6 and Omega-3 are proven to be beneficial when consumed in the ratios of 4:1. However, in the Western diet these fats are being consumed at a ratio of 16:1 due to our overuse of vegetable oils or “hydrogenated oils” in processed foods and restaurant cooking oils. In this scenario, Omega-6 becomes inflammatory and detrimental to weight loss. The best approach is to vary your diet by eating a healthy mix of saturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation. Limiting processed foods, fast food and take out are very beneficial.
Too much of any macronutrient will still crash your weight loss diet if you do not control your portion size. Eating until you feel full is also not always the best way to determine your portion sizes. The most accurate way to measure your food is with measuring spoons and cups but, since you'll look like a weirdo with those at a holiday dinner table, your hand is an accurate and convenient tool. Use your balled fist to determine your portions of protein and carbohydrates, your thumb to determine your fat when using butter or oils.
Food Tips and Tricks
Plan: When you take time to plan your meals, you are less reliant on what’s readily available, which is usually unhealthy processed and fast food.
Substitute: Swap out healthier ingredients in your favorite recipes where you can. Do not add marshmallows to the sweet potato casserole or substitute ground turkey in place of ground beef.
Avoid Processed Foods: Focus on eating mostly whole foods which are foods that occur naturally with minimal to no processing.
Don't Graze: Get rid of those fun-sized Halloween candies that are lingering. Don’t munch on the treats in the break room at work.
Burn It to Earn It: Get your workout in before the big dinner or take your family on a 30-minute walk after.
Shop On Outer Edges: Processed foods are usually boxed or packaged and shelved on the inner aisles of your grocery store. Whole foods are mostly found on the outer edges of your grocery store in the produce, dairy and meats section.
Booze: Alcohol disrupts fat burning. It is better to eat your dinner and have a cocktail 30 minutes after your meal. Also, skip the sugary mixers.
Drink Water: Staying hydrated will help you feel full. Drink a glass of water with every meal.
I am Lisa Hampton, a certified nutritionist and personal trainer at Life Adapted Fitness in Brookside. Thank you for reading my article, stay tuned for more articles on nutrition and fitness. If you are looking for personalized help with your weight loss diet or nutrition in general, you’ll find me in the gym and I’m always happy to help.